Developers have heard much about website performance over the last few years. In particular, they’ve been told that every page needs to load in two seconds or less. It has even been said that this is not a performance goal; it is merely a starting point. A recent survey of e-shoppers, which spans age groups, geography, and frequency of online shopping, seems to contradict the conventional wisdom. The median e-shopper says he’s willing to wait 22 seconds, not 2, before going to a competitor’s website.
How do we reconcile these two very different statements?
First, let’s note the multiplicity of studies that underscore the need for speed. Google, Microsoft, Bing, Walmart, Aberdeen Research Group, Gomez, Shopzilla, Akamai, and others have all published results that measure the user’s behavior in one way or another. Their conclusion across the board is that user behavior changes with even small changes in performance. These are the studies that led to the two-second rule.
This latest survey is a questionnaire. It asks users to describe their own behavior and the reasons for it. Asking a user how long he is willing to wait assumes the user knows the answer. This gives me the image of a user with a stopwatch and a record keeping book measuring every page load and recording when he gets frustrated enough to give up. It just doesn’t happen.
This is a well known statistical phenomenon. People answering questionnaires often attribute good qualities to themselves. Even if they are aware of their own behaviors, they over emphasize the good behaviors and are not willing to admit to the bad ones. They lean toward perfect world descriptions rather than descriptions of their own private worlds.
Even though e-shoppers say they’re willing to wait 22 seconds, over half of the more active ones (e-shopping more than 2 hours/week) admit to cancelling orders in progress because of speed or errors. It’s like a fish swallowing a hook, only to regurgitate it then and then get caught by someone else’s hook.
Over 80% of the more active e-shoppers also say they will switch to a competitor’s website if they don’t get the user experience and speed they want. This is more in line with what the current body of research tells us and stands in stark contrast to their belief that they are a very patient bunch. This same behavior holds true not just for how fast your website page builds but also for the rest of your site. If shoppers can find what they want quickly and easily and if they can perform the actual transaction with speed and easy, then you will capture and keep a greater number of clients.
The new survey is revealing, but it must be interpreted correctly. It does not say that web pages should load in less than 22 seconds. It says instead that 4 out of 5 active e-shoppers will abandon your website and go to the competition if we don’t provide the speed and user experience they want. The bottom line is, keep your website fast, easy to navigate and simple to make purchases from. That is your base line path to success. And based upon these basic principles it further highlights why it is imperative that you monitor; website up-time, website performance and transaction performance. You need to do this to protect your ecommerce investment and to optimize your sales and revenues.
The 2 second rule is not your goal, it is your starting point. You need to be fast, crisp and easy.